Saturday, May 22, 2021

Truthiness - a post-truth paradigm

 


Fox Mulder: “So that’s what this has all been about, the spread of on-line disinformation?”

The nefarious Dr They: “Maybe…”

Dr They: “You know, our current (45) president once said something truly profound… he said: “Nobody knows for sure.”

Mulder: “What was he referring to?”

Dr They: “What does it matter?”

- the X Files, season 11, episode 4

So this is the world we are living in. It’s a wondrous place… it’s also a crazy place… and getting crazier. The times we are living in, continues to quicken… to morph and transform, at an ever-increasing rate of change. This quickening is being driven by, among other things, communications technology. As a result, our ever-pervasive communications technologies have mediated our understanding of… well… everything.

One of the casualties of our ever-changing paradigm, is a quaint little idea known as “objective truth.” In the good old days, circa 2000 CE, it was the idea of objective truth that was pervasive… even comforting. We could all rest assured that there was a bedrock of truth from which to compare all falsehoods. We believed that, in the end, the truth would prevail.

But stranger things were brewing in our pre 9-11 world. With total domination within their grasp, the globalists were about to be dealt a near-death blow… That great equalizer of information access, the internet, was about to show it’s darker side… The conspiracy underground was about to become mainstream… Out on the frontier of the fringe, strange alternate realities that has simmered for a decade or two, were about to boil over.

Consequently, in the ensuing two decades we have seen an increased splintering of consensus reality, in favor of multiple, often competing realities. As our timeline accelerates, it diverges along innumerably novel paths. At times these paths overlap, so as to give the impression of a consensus reality. But the paths cross and re-cross… plummeting down back-alley dead-ends and careening up and over speculative summits like the most bad-ass roller coaster at the most surreal funhouse… imaginable.
 
Naturally these multiple, alternate realities propagate multiple, alternative facts (to borrow a phrase) and/or truths, to go along for the ride. So the (relatively) singular, objective truth of the last century has virally mutated into competing, convenient truths. In looking back, was there an omega point where truth became truths? Was there a “patient zero” truth, from whence all our competing, viral truths mutated?
 
On October 17, 2005… the great political satirist and commentarian, Stephen Colbert coined the term Truthiness,  as the subject of one of his most beloved segments: "The Wørd" during his late-night show, the Colbert Report. By using this as part of his routine, Colbert satirized the weaponization of rhetorical persuasion and the manipulation of public opinion in contemporary socio-political discourse. In recognition of this public service, Truthiness was named Word of the Year for 2005 by the American Dialect Society and for 2006 by Merriam-Webster.

Truthiness is defined as the stated belief or assertion that a given concept is true, based on opinion, intuition or perception, in keeping with a given individual’s acquired reality tunnel… regardless of evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or… most importantly… facts. Colbert was to articulate this linguistic revelation, just four years after the reality splintering and cosmic triggering event of 9-11. But even stranger things were to come.

Factions within certain politico-religious parties had declared a Culture War on their supposed adversaries. They had spent the last decade of the twentieth century transforming political discourse, into a moral litmus test. With not only morality, but one’s eternal soul on the line, these political evangelists required that you pick a side.

The new millennium turbo-charged this divisiveness, aided and abetted by none other than the newfangled communications technologies. As we all now know, social media platforms have a way of insulating or “siloing” the content of an individual’s newsfeed, based upon past “searches” and “likes.” The really insidious feature of these platforms is the way their algorithms increasingly point to more extreme positions on whatever topic the user has pursued. It is as if the devilish algorithm is saying: “if you think that last article was extreme, wait until you see this next one!”…BAM!

Not only are you only getting one side of the story… the story you are told, becomes continually more lop-sided and biased. This “feature” of social media platforms only serves to isolate, separate, and drive us all into ever-extreme ends of the socio-political spectrum. And so algorithms of the information age drive us into ever-more radical corners of opinion.
 
Over time, these extreme views become so insulated, as to be perceived as a separate reality. So insulated, our view of “the other guy’s” reality tunnel becomes one of disbelief. What once was a different opinion becomes a different reality… one that to us is obviously a lie.

 

“The term ‘post-truth’ caught fire in the period around the 2016 United States presidential election and the Brexit referendum. It was named Word of the Year in 2016 by the Oxford Dictionary where it is defined as ‘Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.’

The connotations embedded in ‘post-truth era’ commentary are normally as follows: ‘post-truth’ is the product of populism; it is the bastard child of common-touch charlatans and a rabble ripe for arousal… it is often in blatant disregard of the actualité.

Under the terms of this outlook, all claims on truth are relative to the particular person making them; there is no position outside our own particulars from which to establish universal truth. This was one of the key tenets of postmodernism, a concept which first caught on in the 1980s after publication of Jean-Francois Lyotard’s The Postmodern Condition: A Report On Knowledge in 1979.”

- Andrew Calcutt

So it was that the condition of truthiness led inevitably to a post-truth-era, where the Trumpian, networked, open sourced, political insurgency of 2016 dismantled the traditional two-party political system. A reactive, outraged form of political social networking rose up from the ashes of the collapsed two-party political system, known in 2016 as The Resistance. Social networking has changed politics forever, pushing “we the people” to the extreme corners of opinion. As such, opinion turns to dogma as various camps entrench… hardening their defenses for the inevitable culture wars to come.

One good thing did emerge from the ashes of the Trumpian insurgency, though. The façade of predator/dominator culture that both political parties partook in, propped up, and profited from, was ripped away. In an imperfect analogy, “we the people” began to see that EMPIRE WEARS NO CLOTHES. We all came to realize that the corporate raiders of late-stage capitalism has systematically dismantled an economy that allowed for any upward mobility from the lower (read: slave) classes.

Cunningly disguised as “trickle-down” economics, the corporate elite and their lackeys the evangelical politicians, rigged the game to ensure that no undesirables could ever reach the heights of modest prosperity. 

But the jig us up...
 
Recognizing the grift that has been underway for the last fifty years, perpetuated by bad actors on both the Right and the Left… perhaps we can now begin to reintegrate the multiple truths into a holistic truth. Perhaps we can transform the deceptive truthiness back into a Zen-like Truth. Then again... perhaps there is no return to the old ways... perhaps Thomas Wolfe was right, "You can't go home again." Time will tell...

Be that as it may... Based upon these revelations, so equipped with a slightly broader perspective, we move forward, regardless of competing reality tunnels. Universe is big... perhaps there is room for Alt Realities... perhaps there is room enough for truthiness and Truth... in our Brave Noö World. With such quandaries so considered, we now return you to your regularly scheduled program of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.


“There are trivial truths and there are great truths. The opposite of a trivial truth is plainly false. The opposite of a great truth is also true.”

― Niels Bohr


5 comments:

Garmr said...

Not sure if I have ever cared about truth or authenticity. If I cared more about truth I would lie more and if cared more about authenticity I would try harder to fake being myself.

Jack Heart said...

Well if it isn’t my old friend Garmr... you have been commenting hereabouts for years... and I am always glad to hear from you, but it’s kinda funny... whenever I try to picture you in my mind’s eye... you always seem to resemble the “Dr They” character from the X files... go figure!

Garmr said...

Perhaps I need to work harder to project an image of youthful innocence. It is interesting, the line between reading a mindless collective psychology and believing you are directing it. I suppose it must be hard to understand it without being swept along with it in some way and with that comes the belief that it is your will you are seeing done. The first step into putting yourself into the mind of the borg is to adopt the thought, we are not the mindless drones, they are!

Jack Heart said...

Garmr...
I think your wit and command of the written word has given me a vision of snarky wisdom. For what it’s worth, I see myself as a variation of Dr They... especially in light of a culture of youthful innocence. In my mind, there are worse connotations!

Any commentary on a dualistic, them & us perspective, runs the risk of becoming part of EMPIRE. It came with the territory when we were born into a dualistic, manifest universe. As PKD said... “To fight the Empire is to be infected by its derangement.” And yet this is the task. Even if one chooses the delusion that they can choose not to engage in favor of wry observations from the side-line. For in a manifest universe, one cannot separate the observer from the observed. Like most things here... a paradox.

Garmr said...

If nature produces some people who are more suited to observing, then it is a chosen role of the empire to decide if such people conform to their plans or not. Generally, they are not.